Things to Watch: Sixers Versus Nets
The Sixers have their biggest matchup of the season since facing the Lakers, squaring off against the Brooklyn Nets in primetime on Saturday night. Although the Nets will be without Kevin Durant due to health and safety protocols, this will still be a star-studded matchup.
Here are some things to watch in the matchup of two of the Eastern Conference's top teams.
Battle of offense vs. defense
Both of these rosters have established themselves as a top team in the league on one side of the floor. Since acquiring James Harden, the Nets have built one of the best offensive trios arguably in the history of the league. While Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have turned the Sixers into a defensive powerhouse.
Brooklyn will not be as scary on offense now that Durant will not be making the trip to Philadelphia, but Harden and Kyrie Irving a lethal duo scoring the ball. Seeing which side wins this battle of top offense vs top defense should be lead to an incredible matchup.
Heading into this matchup, the Nets currently sit at third in the NBA in offensive rating. On the other side of things, the Sixers are fourth in the NBA in defensive rating.
Embiid's continued dominance
As great as the Nets are on offense, they are a completely different story when it comes to defense. They currently sit at 26th in the league in defensive rating, and now have to face off against a favorite for the MVP award.
Joel Embiid has been on a tear this season but has been even more impressive in the team's recent stretch. He has broken the 30 point mark in six of his last seven games heading into this matchup against the Nets.
Now that Jarrett Allen is no longer a member of the Nets, they have no player in the frontcourt who can match up with Embiid. Their only answer is DeAndre Jordan, who has seen little success defending Embiid in the past.
Embiid has punished teams for going small against him, and this matchup should see more of the same. With the Nets being close a revolving door on defense, we could see Embiid's highest scoring outburst of the season.
Late game scoring
The battle of offense and defense will be in full effect if this game is close down the stretch. As great of scorers Harden, Irving, and Durant are they have been even better down the stretch of games.
Brooklyn's trio is currently the top three in points per game in the fourth quarter this season. Slowing down Irving and Harden and forcing the supporting cast to make plays is going to be crucial for the Sixers' defense.
Matisse Thybulle becoming an X-factor
Part of what makes the Sixers so strong defensively is how many players are bought in on that side of the floor. Many teams don't have a perimeter defender as impactful as Matisse Thybulle, let alone one coming off the bench.
Ben Simmons and Thybulle showed they can be a nightmare for opposing teams in their comeback win over the Pacers, and they will need more of that energy tonight. With how well Thybulle has been playing defensively as of late, he should be leading the charge with Simmons defending the Nets' stars.
Thybulle was big for the Sixers defensively in their win over the Lakers, and he could be an X-factor in this matchup as well. If he can hold his own and slow down Kyrie Irving with Simmons defending Harden, defense will likely overcome offense in this battle of NBA juggernauts.